I'm finally flying back home from Buffalo (EDIT: this was yesterday; I had to work and nap after getting back to New Jersey) and, like every trip to the Mother Ship of My Aching Heart, the weekend afforded little in the way of time for introspection after - without any real competition - the most interesting day of Bills football I've experienced in my 25 or so years as a fan. The unbridled hype of last year's opener (my last trip to Orchard Park) was replaced with a patient optimism about this godforsaken team and a lingering, uncomfortable buzz surrounding something completely unrelated to football. A day that gave all fans something to smile about, from ear to fucking ear, gave many of us in attendance an unshakable disgust with the parade of horrors on display. Death threats emblazoned on t-shirts. Tackling dummies playing the part of vague Muslim effigies. Fathers and sons screaming at an American citizen to stand when he prefers to kneel; screaming at an American citizen while the first verse of our National Anthem rang out. Chants of USA! raining down upon an American citizen and those who support him. Chants of USA! covering all manner of uniquely American sins.
I'm a bleeding heart. I'm an aspiring pragmatist above all else. I'm a venomous blogger who has been told not to use this space for this kind of commentary. I'm a Bills fan who left New Era Field feeling very apart from this new era of Buffalo Bills football. Sunday made it abundantly clear that I hold a minority opinion dwarfed by the rage of those who believe patriotism is a concept over which monopoly control may be exercised, who believe "American" is a one-size-fits-all panacea, and who believe dissent entitles you to nothing more than a one-way ticket back *there* (wherever that is) on the horse you rode in on.
All the same, I left New Era Field and its tailgate wasteland environs knowing that I'm not alone and proud of the pockets of dissent that sprang forth regardless of the un-American brand that would be seared onto their efforts by those who would sooner silence disagreement than attempt to understand it. They were outmanned and outflanked by those who opt to speak against black lives and against advocacy civil liberties; who opt to speak in support of unquestioning devotion to uniforms and badges and authority under the heel of a boot. But they were present all the same, and the peaceful, non-violent advocacy from people of color and white allies alike was something to celebrate. It was the best of Buffalo on display, and more than many other cities would show in similar circumstances.
Also the Star Spangled Banner sucks, Francis Scott Key was a questionable human, and America the Beautiful is the absolute jam.
The game, though? Apart from the heat that Kaep continually got for daring to be a black man with an opinion? It was dope as hell. The best game I've ever seen live, and that's saying something because I went to the Bills' last two games in New Jersey against the Jets (combined score 65-40), and the opener last year. When the Bills beat Arizona four weeks ago and it looked like there was a chance there'd be something to cheer for when I headed up to WNY for Week 6, I knew that the game was going to be the one that sealed my Sundays for the foreseeable future. A loss and the start of hockey season would have seemed a blessèd relief. A win, and I knew I'd be be left buzzing about what's still to come.
And here we are.
The game was hilarious in its arc - from a close nail-biter to a thorough walloping in the matter of just a few series. When the floodgates opened in the third quarter, it suddenly became a party. The edge of fans' anger at Kaepernick (or each other) was dulled in the face of such impeccable play from our Bills. What a weird sentence to write. It was the kind of win that binds us all together for our love of this stupid team, suggests we may have more that keeps us coming together than that forces us apart, and gives us some small hope for coming together and making the most of this shared world of ours, even if it seems impossible at present.
Sports, man. Maybe.
Holy shit. <looks at stats again for the 100th time> HOLY. SHIT.
I'm a simple dude and I love watching teams gobble up running yards like they're Rob Ford (RIP) in the middle of a bender. Watching Buffalo Bills QB's get overloaded with responsibility over the past decade in the pass-heavy NFL has been devastating for my blood pressure. NONE of them have been able to handle the workload, with maybe Orton being the sole exception. I know this is true for EJ, and I suspect it's true for Fitz and Trent and JP, but we've watched the Bills absoilutely squander RB talent for the better part of my adult life (read: all) while leaning on sub-par talent under center to pass the ball way more than their sub-par talent suggests they ought. The Bills are a team that has routinely played worse when trying to fit into the mold of pass-heavy NFL team - say, 30+ pass attempts per game. Now? We're seeing the inverse and it's delicious. Tyrod has only attempted 30+ passes twice this season, and one of those times was because the Patriots had opened a buffet. With the fewer passes, the rushing attempts have gone up (math!), the third downs have become more manageable, and the tent poles have become more rigid.
That said, it's working because it's working, which is a nice tautology that you can thank me for later. The RBs are actually getting holes to hit on virtually every play, so it's not just about play-calling and workload distribution, and it's not even about how good the RBs are or how blessed we are to have a mobile QB with a brain, although all of that is true. The offensive line is simply beasting it and wouldn't you know that good offensive line play makes football an easier game. Sal from WGR had some great analysis on Twitter this morning, as fate would have it, and it's worth posting here.
2. The Defensive Front. Watching every run up the middle get swallowed like Carlos Hyde had suddenly found himself in the middle of Nothing But Trouble's Mister Bonestripper. Fuck I love that movie.
3. Colton. Punting is winning and this guy gets some GD credit for keeping the Niners pinned deep while the teams traded punts in the 3rd quarter especially.
Honorable Mentions: another great sports weekend (my teams went 3-1-0 on Sunday/Monday), staying up until 5am while in the (716), friendship, Nick O'Leary, Justin Hunter and Lorenzo Alexander. Talk about making the most of your shot. Love love love.
THINGS I DID NOT LIKE:
1. Art putting people in crosshairs. I don't know, man, maybe let's not talk about killing more people as a response to a guy who just wants less people killed. Shit is gross. Also, every once in a while, some knuckledragging fucko decides that you putting, say, an NFL quarterback within the image of a gun's crosshairs actually means you want someone to kill that NFL quarterback and then does exactly that. Cut it out and maybe don't sell shirts directly advocating for murder.
3. Thinking the secondary was bad when really you were drunk. Guilty. I really thought they had a rough day because of the few deep shots they gave up, but Kaep's stats were fucking wretched so what do I know. Please continue reading my sports blog and analysis.
Honorable mentions: not being able to smoke in the stadium, having to leave Buffalo, sleeping through the Sabres game Sunday night, Jose Mourinho, bars serving beer at NYC prices.
TELEVISION TO LAY YOUR EYES ON:
Westworld. I am in love and I am steeped in fear.
MOVIE TO LAY YOUR EYES ON:
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead. I love documentaries and I love Steve Aoki, so this one is not hard. What an interesting film.
Barrister's Reading List:
It's Miami hate week so get those flammable stuffed aquatic mammals ready, make sure you're still blocked on Twitter by Omar Kelly (if you're not, you know what to do), pretend you like Richie Incognito and give a shit about him playing against the team that (probably rightfully) scorned him and then promptly ignore the implications of his being welcomed with open arms in Western New York. It'll be a trap game to end all trap games and the boys need to snag the win and keep positioned for a Wild Card run. We find ourselves a few days from Week 7. Inexplicably and, with no small amount of frustration and regret, I'm finding myself all in.